08 May Grant-ed
Most of us have a sense of what grants are, but are unclear beyond a certain point as to what grants entail. While there are certain common elements shared by grants in general, there are also differences in the nature and requirements of each specific grant. This is the first of a multi-part series, where we will attempt to provide a broad overview and cover basic information regarding grants, more specific to Canada.
These are some of the questions we often encounter with our clients:
What is a grant? A grant is a form of financial assistance, usually provided in the form of money, that does not require repayment, unlike a loan. Grants vary in amounts and differ in their type of financial assistance. While some grants provide money upfront, some might involve reimbursement of eligible expenses. Some grants may offer financial value through access to goods, services, or resources.
What are the different types of grants? There is no single correct answer to this question. There are thousands of grants available within Canada. These grants may be classified in different ways. Two broad ways to think of grants are: (a) based on the funding source (e.g. government funded grants, grants from private and public foundations that are generally non-profits, agencies, councils, grants from corporations etc.), and (b) based on target area, sector, nature of the agency or foundation, socio-economic need such as creating jobs etc. (e.g. business grants, education grants, grants for minorities, medical grants, research grants).
Grants may sometimes be funded by multiple sources such as a combination of federal and provincial governments, federal/provincial government and a foundation, government and industry, and so on. The next likely question that anyone might have is, if grants are avenues of free money with no requirement for repayment, and there are thousands of grant funding sources available within Canada, why is everybody not taking advantage of these “free” opportunities? In other words, this seems too good to be true. The answer to this lies in the fact that there are significant challenges involved in acquiring grant funds, some of which are listed below:
- Almost all grants involve an application process that is
moderate-to-intensely time consuming, and entails a substantial amount of paperwork, depending on the type of grant. Grant applications require the involvement of a team. Exemplary team management, project management, time management, and organization skills are therefore imperative to the success of the grant.
- Since the granting body is not asking for the money to be repaid, it is always in their best interest to ensure that the money is
well-deserved by the applicant and that it fulfills a need. Granting bodies want to show evidence, over a period of time, that these funds are serving the purpose for which they are allocated. So, success stories of grantees matter. Therefore, the granting body needs to have enough confidence that the applicant will utilize these funds well, before granting the funds. As such, competition is usually intense. The application needs to be thorough, well-researched, well written, and convincing.
- Finally, there is no guaranty that the application will be successful. Some grant agencies will provide statistics such as success rates of past applicants (i.e. percentage of the total number of applicants who received grant funds). While this information is useful and in some cases, encouraging, there is no 100% guaranty.
If an applicant does not have the time and resources for, or know-how of the grant application process, a professional grant writer is very useful. A professional grant writer understands the challenges pertaining to grant applications well and has experience in addressing them. In addition to being a good writer, he or she would (a) have strong knowledge about the sector or application area and the types of grant sources available, (b) understand the general nature of the granting body (i.e. what is their main motivation in providing these funds?) in order to convince the body that the proposed project is grant-worthy, © likely have a record of past success in acquiring grant funding, and (d) have the ability to forecast how these funds will be used. Expanding further on the last point, he or she should be able to break the proposed project down into manageable chunks with intermediate milestones, assign reasonable expense estimates, and ensure that the overall scope and timeline of the project seem realistic from the granting body’s perspective. In short, professional grant writers represent a combination of writing, project management, and marketing skills.
In part 2 of this series, we will discuss government grants and some of the options that are available for different sectors.
by: Naresh Vempala (Founder & Partner) & Sohini Bhattacharya (Co-Founder & Managing Partner), Allegoro Communications